Aug. 13–LANSING — The state Senate will be back in full session Wednesday with items big and small on the agenda.
Perhaps most controversial will be citizen-initiated legislation that would maintain the Natural Resources Commission’s authority to call for a hunt of gray wolves in the Upper Peninsula.
The group in support of the hunt collected enough signatures to put the issue before the Legislature, which can approve the proposal, and it will automatically become law. The Legislature can also reject the proposal or do nothing, which would move the issue to a statewide vote on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
Rejection is unlikely because the Legislature has already voted twice by overwhelming margins to approve the wolf hunt.
“Both of our caucuses have been very supportive of this in the past,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. “The formality of a caucus discussion has to take place, but I expect a vote for the issue.”
The legislation is designed to thwart a proposal that has been approved by the State Board of Canvassers for the November ballot to stop the wolf hunt. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted more than enough signatures of voters to qualify for the ballot.
The petition submitted by Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management that the Senate will consider on Wednesday includes a $1-million appropriation to deal with invasive species like Asian carp, which makes the legislation, if passed, immune from being overturned by a referendum.
Jill Fritz, director of the group opposing the hunt, said it’s clear Michigan voters want a say on the issue. And the group hasn’t discounted the possibility of a lawsuit.
“This initiative is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent nearly one-half million Michigan residents who signed petitions during two referendum campaigns to stop wolf hunting,” Fritz said. Lawmakers “have an opportunity to restore respect for the democratic process by rejecting an initiative put forth by the pro-wolf-hunting group Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management.”
This is the second effort by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected to end the hunt through a voter referendum. In 2013, the group succeeded in putting the issue on the ballot, but the Legislature passed a law circumventing it and authorizing the first wolf hunt last year.
That hunt was held in November and December and had a goal of killing 43 of the U.P.’s population of more than 650 wolves. Hunters killed 23.
The House of Representatives technically also is in session Wednesday, but they won’t be taking attendance or voting.
Other issues the Senate is scheduled to consider: allowing military personnel to renew concealed weapons permits by mail and allowing certain terminally ill people to gain access to experimental drugs that haven’t received final approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, email@example.com or on Twitter @michpoligal.